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4.6 out of 5 stars152
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 5 October 2006
This has got to be one of the best films I have ever watched,...and felt. Gilbert (Johnny Depp) is almost totally despairing taking responsibllity for his 'loser' family in a town where little seems to happen. He is trapped and seems to want better, but cannot dump the family which includes his seriously obese mother and his brain damaged younger brother, also brilliantly played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio.

The film is seriously poignant but feelgood, containing lots of humour, some of which is a little blackish although very much in context.

Although Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio have become famous for their later roles this film displays for me their absolute brilliance.

Get it, watch it, make your own mind up, but I hope you enjoy this masterpiece.
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on 4 September 2005
When I first met my husband, ten years ago he told me about this film, and said how good he thought it was and how DiCaprio's performance as an autistic boy was spectacular. Somehow we never got around to watching it, until last night.
It was an amazingly moving film. The character development and story were very genuine and the acting, particularly by Di Caprio, was of the highest quality. We found the story all the more poignant as my husband and I now have an autistic child of our own.
I hear that Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for an oscar for his part in this film. I only find it a sin that he didn't win. At no point during the viewing of this film do you cease believing that he is indeed a boy with autism. And we know what we're talking about here. I really don't know how he managed to pull it off. I also think that he should be congratulated for having taken the role at all, as it was a brave choice for a teenage actor.
As the story unfolds you ache for the character of Gilbert. For the love that he gives Arnie, for the life that he is stuck with and the way that he soldiers on without complaint. It illustrates humanity at its best.
This film is not fast-paced. There are no car chases, no fights, no nudity. So I'm sure there will be some people who find it very boring. I think this film is magnificent, well written, well directed and spectacularly acted.
All in all, well worth viewing.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 October 2009
Here's one that can withstand repeated viewing. Depp, now famous for playing eccentric characters, stars as a handsome ordinary joe in a dead end town, lumbered with an impossible family and no future. Juliette Lewis, for once not playing dopey white trash, is the ray of light that illuminates Gilbert's empty existence, inviting him to take action.

Depp and Lewis are both very good, as is Mary Steenburgen as Gilbert's married lover, but this movie really belongs to Di Caprio as Gilbert's retarded brother, Arnie. His performance is so convincing, so moving, that if he weren't a superstar actor you'd be convinced he was genuinely handicapped. All are convincingly natural in this offbeat little gem, which is funny and sad in equal measure.
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on 26 August 2003
This remarkable understated film is one of my favorites of all time. It tells the story of a midwestern guy (Depp) coping with his menial, boring and often challenging day to day existence. Leonardo di Caprio shows here that he's capable of so much more than we get to see of him these days. The performances of every major character in this film is great, from Gilberts vastly overweight mother to the transient character played by Juliete Lewis, however it's easy to see in this film why Johnny Depp has become such a huge star, not just because of his looks but a truly memorable performance.
The film tackles issues of prejudice and adversity with delicacy and a wry touch. It's beautifully filmed and completely uncontrived, a truly rare film which I would and do recommend to anyone that listens!
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He's got a mother that weighs 400 pounds, or maybe it's 600. There's a married woman who can't keep her hands off of him whose husband would like to kill him. He's got a younger brother that is cuckoo, and he's responsible for him. He's got to take care of him. He works in a grocery store. His life is about groceries. Honk if you've got groceries...

He's trapped in Endora, somewhere, probably Kansas or Nebraska or Iowa (actually filmed in Texas), somewhere in the heart of the Heartland--by the way this is the sort of American film that plays as a foreign film in, say, France or Sweden. Along comes Juliette Lewis who's a bit of a short-haired punk to his long-haired country ("Get in the car, longhair"). He is wallowing in self-pity and she sees it. "What about you?" she asks. "What do you want?"

She attracts him and frightens him. She may make him upset his predictable life as Job. And then one day, he loses it and hits Arnie, and hits him again. Who can blame him? But you don't hurt Arnie. He is just a boy who will always be a boy.

Johnny Depp is Gilbert Grape, Leonardo DiCaprio is Arnie, Mary Steenburgen is the married woman, Juliette Lewis is Becky and Darlene Cates is Mama. They all give sterling performances. The script and direction are flawless. You've probably seen bits and pieces of this movie on TV. See the whole thing. It is an outstanding flick. Gilbert is an America hero. He knows the good and the bad, and he always tries to do the good. But it's tough. Life is an embarrassment and a boredom, and when it isn't boring, it's scary emotionally. Depp is perfectly cast as a man whose loyalty to his family and his love for them has trapped him. And they are using him, and they don't appreciate him. His father disappeared. His older brother is gone. Gilbert has the responsibility. And he knows it. And he can't escape it.

But it's hard, and when Becky comes along, she is something different. She is something he's never seen before. She isn't predictable, and she is striking. And she is smart and sensitive, like him.

Don't answer the phone. Don't answer the door. This is a heartland masterpiece about real people living real lives, and director Lasse Halstrom (The Cider House Rules (1999) Chocolat (2000) after many Swedish films) doesn't flinch and he doesn't do cliches, and he gets it right. You will be moved.

But see this for Johnny Depp and see why women love him.
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Endura is a stagnating town where locals are drifting out of its boundaries and the dusty roads see little action. It's hardly an inspiring place for a twenty-something like Gilbert who is trapped in a life devoid of any real excitement, surrounded by dysfunctional families either breaking down, or picking up the pieces. His own family is no different with a self-imprisoned mother afraid to leave the house after becoming morbidly obese since Gilbert's father left. He is effectively the man of the house now and his wages from the failing local store help to keep the home running.

His main role isn't that of provider however, he is the role model, father figure, and hero to his brother Arnie. Looking after Arnie is a full time job itself; the young boy is becoming a young man and his special needs mean that he requires constant supervision. It's difficult juggling all his commitments, especially when his family are often blind to the extent of his efforts and perceive him as lazy, perhaps a chance to find time for his own interests exists in bohemian, new-to-town girl Becky. Her introduction leads Gilbert to start thinking about what he wants from life, it's almost as though he didn't realise how bored he'd been, her free-spirted nature removes his blinkers.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a whimsical film which could be set in any era, most of that is thanks to the town of Endura which seems to have let modern life pass it by. There's as much comedy as there is personal tragedy in this film which manages to focus on the minutiae of life as well as the hint at the bigger ambitions of the few who dare to dream. Although Johnny Depp is clearly the lead character here and his mild-mannered ways ensures that you want him to find his own happiness, he isn't the most interesting (or developed), instead Arnie is the star of this show and Leonardo DiCaprio steals every scene he is in. This was the first film I saw starring DiCaprio, and I genuinely thought that the film makers had cast an autistic boy in the role - so convincing is DiCaprio's portrayal. The best thing about the performance is that we don't see a condition, we see the boy beneath and he's a refreshingly innocent and multifaceted character. It's a powerful turn for a young actor and I still consider this to be his best role so far, such a great demonstration of talent at a young age.

The other characters feel a little underdeveloped, you do care about them, but as I watched this again recently there doesn't seem to be as much depth to some of them as I remembered there being. The budding romance between Gilbert and Becky is a central part of the story but has little spark. There are some gems however, the frustrated housewife and her husband are brilliantly presented, much of it is done with incredible subtlety - a brief interaction here or a throwaway line there which suggest a much more serious relationship problem simmering away under the surface. If the same level of attention could have been afforded to the full ensemble then the film would certainly have been richer. It's only a small criticism though as the central relationships are still compelling enough to drive the film.

The previous DVD transfer wasn't great (the 2004 release with the blue banner at the bottom), with high levels of grain and digital noise because of it. This 2008 release though seems much more cleaned up. There is still a fair amount of grain - but you can't remove it if it's on the source video, and heavyhanded removal causes a host of other problems. The great cinematography is shown off well with dreary town sets contrasting against the picturesque countryside. Still there's a disappointed lack of extras here.

In a nutshell: Although not perfect, this is still a cracking film with more heart than the big Hollywood studios are usually able to muster. Depp is wonderfully understated and DiCaprio gives once of the best performances I've seen in a film
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VINE VOICEon 12 December 2003
This is a truly magnificent piece of cinema.
From the locations to the wonderful characters, this is a film that will blow you away.
Johnny Depp is fantastic as Gilbert, a hard working average guy who is always looking out for everyone else but himself.He is so loveable in this role as you feel exactly what he's going through with his disfunctional family.
But as much as I am a Depp fan, I have to give huge credit to Leonardo Dicaprio. His performance is outstanding as Arnie, Gilbert's mentally ill younger brother.Just the scene where he climbs the gas tank gets you laughing out loud.
("Match in the gas tank....Boom,Boom!")
This is an absolutely beautiful film and you will want to watch it again and again.
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on 5 June 2008
I would put this film down as one of the great understated classics of the 1990's. It is a simple story of Gilbert ( Depp ) who lives in a hick town with nothing to do, very little aspiration, and is stuck in time. He has a larger than life family consisting of an older brother who has left the nest, an older sister, a brat teenage sister and Arnie his mentally handicap brother. His mother who is actually played by a lady who had never acted before is after years of depression, from her husband's suicide has become obese. The story focuses mainly upon the two brothers.
Gilbert feels trapped by this constant attention of Arnie, so when Lewis's character who is a traveller comes along, Gilberts world has a shining star in it once more. This is a wonderfully beautiful story which not only focuses on the morality of life, and not to judge but to love people as they are, it also questions the need for the family circle.
The acting is superb, Depp is once again sublime in his understated role. DeCaprio, who is not one of my favourite actors is quite simply perfect in this role, you can see that he painstakingly researched this role and well deserved the oscar he recieved for it. The lady who played the mother also deserves respect for her role in this film as she wasn't an actress, and I believe she did die quite soon after the film came out. This is a wonderful film it may be slow but with that you get truly fantastic acting and it is filmed in an aesthetic and pleasing way.
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on 27 December 2007
My hardbitten husband was to be found snuffling in the corner of the settee after watching this one sunny afternoon. It's an absolutely beautiful film, with outstanding performances from Johnny Depp and Leo DiCaprio, both displaying outstanding range and vulnerability in their respective roles where Johnny is the carer and Leo and his mother the cared for. Johnny is trapped by circumstance and loyalty, a new world of possibilities open to him when Juliette Lewis comes to town (another lovely performance). The frustrations and limitations that he suffers are so well portrayed I think this was the movie where I truely lost my heart to him (or maybe Edward Scissorhands, perhaps tied!). The final scenes are a catharsis of sorts. Beautiful film in every single understated way.
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on 22 June 2007
why did i not watch this film when it first came out? silly me. this film is fantastic. it is a very beautifully written masterpiece, to say the least. i did not lose interest in this film for one moment.

the plot is as stated by the other people who have written a review also. they are right. leonardo's acting in this film is amazing, he deserved an oscar, he is a genius!

the reason i had not watched this film until recently, is that the story looked pretty boring, or at least it did when you read the back cover of the DVD. this is certainly not the case though. this is an honest account of an average (or maybe not so average) young persons life. it shows how beautiful and fragile we as humans can be, aswell as the horrors and the horrors we can cause too.

this film is not to be missed by anyone at all, other then children of course, as it does contain scenes/dialogue, which could cause upset and may be disturbing.

my advice? go and watch this film now, if you have never done so before. this is one of those films you will remember for ever. truly inspirational. this has now become one of my favourite films. i am so glad i bought it.
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